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Employers Increasingly Held Accountable for Distracted Driving Accidents

As Americans, we believe strongly in the individual responsibility. A person who causes an accident should be held accountable.

The thing is, in many legal respects, a corporation is considered a person. So when it comes to distracted driving accidents caused by the drivers of commercial vehicles, it isn't only the drivers who may be responsible. It may also be the employers themselves.

For example, in a recent truck accident case, a federal judge ordered a trucking company in Alabama to pay $18 million in damages for injuries caused by a commercial driver who got distracted by a cellphone.

Ironically, cellphone records can play a big role in helping plaintiffs' lawyers prove cases on behalf of injured people.

Juries around the country have shown they are prepared to issue hefty damage awards against corporations whose employees cause accidents - particularly when texting while driving or improper cellphone use is involved.

An official with the National Safety Council, David Treater, thinks the general public is rightly concerned about the role that corporations can play to reign in their drivers. He points to studies showing that drivers who use cellphones behind the wheel are four times more likely to crash than those who don't.

"If an employer knew a behavior is some other respect of the business put employees at four-times-greater risk of injury, would they still expect or even encourage that behavior?" Treater asks.

It isn't only trucking companies that this applies to, either. Nor does the vehicle have to be a company car - as long as the call or text that distracted the driver was for business.

Source: "Employees use of cellphones while driving becomes a liability for companies," Washington Post, Ashley Halsey III, 5-20-12

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